June 06, 2013
In Praise of the Bruins
Some people have said to me I am a biased Vancouver Canucks fan, especially when it comes to the Boston Bruins.
I will certainly never apologize for being a Canucks fan. And I don't think "biased" is fair, but there's nothing I can do that will change that. I think a lot of Canucks fans have been branded that since 2011. Not that I really care. I've always loved the quote "What others think about you is none of your business."
But I will admit that I have never given Boston their due for their victory over the Canucks in 2011. Just like so many others - including many Bruins fans - have never given Vancouver credit for what they accomplished that season either. This double standard down right amuses me.
The fan in me has chosen not to revisit 2011 yet. I don't know that I ever will, to be quite honest. And while I still really don't like the Boston Bruins (that's my prerogative as a fan), they have certainly caught magic in a bottle when it comes to Stanley Cup playoff time, haven't they? And I have always liked a number of their players, even if I haven't been to obvious about it.
So let's give a little credit where credit is due:
Zdeno Chara - I have long been a Chara fan. I watched him in Prince George before most people knew who he was. Eric Brewer and Joel Kwiatkowski were also on that blue line, with Chris Mason in net. The Cougars were relevant back then, which has proven to be rare. Chara was skinny and awkward then, still trying figure out his giant body on blades and ice. You could see he had more potential than most big men back then, but nobody really expected (let's be honest, he wasn't drafted until the 3rd round, 56th overall in 1996) that he would one day become the most dominant defenseman in the game. He is one of the rare defensemen in recent memory that is a Hall of Fame lock without top offensive numbers.
Milan Lucic - He's a little rough around the edges sometimes, but how can you not like him? He is that rare bread of bulk and brawn, yet with brains and beauty. He is what Todd Bertuzzi could have been. Though I would never grant him such a lofty comparison he has a little Mark Messier and Gordie Howe him. Maybe Clarke Gillies is more apt. Regardless, there is not a team in the league that would not want this rarest of jewels. There is only one player in the league tougher than Lucic, and that's Zdeno Chara. How convenient for the Bruins. They milk the intimidation quotient for all it is worth with those two around, and why not?
Shawn Thornton - I've always admired his game. He seems to give everything he's got and is the perfect bottom six winger. He gives an honest effort and keeps the other team honest. I suspect he is getting close to the end of his career.
Patrice Bergeron - Bergeron was Team Canada's key utility man at the 2010 Olympics, jumping all around the line-up and playing in all key situations. Is there a more "clutch" player in the NHL? He's certainly one of the very top few. If you could get a team of 12 Patrice Bergeron's up front, you would win a lot of hockey games, and all the key games.
Brad Marchand - Which brings us to Brad Marchand. I quite honestly can't stand this guy. But that's because I can't stand most of these pests. I truly believe pests are the parasites of hockey. If we could ever eliminate them, we would eliminate a lot of the violence from the game. Marchand does not even have to play that way. He's got the goods. He's a great skater, good shot, real good head for the game. He's very versatile and play many different roles. He and Bergeron have formed a formidable duo. I still don't like him, though. He'll never change, not while Lucic and Chara are there to protect him.
David Krejci - Is there a more underrated star in the league right now? No player is anywhere near close to him in terms of points scored in the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2011. Yet he just kind of blends in and you almost forget he is there. Yet look at the score sheet at the end of the night and he's easy find - at the top of the NHL scoring list.
Tuukka Rask - I have to mention the goaltender Rask, with his .940 save percentage and goals against average comfortably below two. He has been big when needed, and he's a whole lot more likeable than Tim Thomas.
The Bruins as a team are an impressive bunch built to win this time of year. I have to wonder if they are not the odds on favorites to win the Stanley Cup in 2013 as of right now. It looks like they will dust of the Pittsburgh Penguins in short order, while Chicago and Los Angeles appear set for a war.
When the Western Conference is finally settled, the Bruins will be waiting to finish off whatever is left of the victor. And should the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year, I will do something I certainly did not in 2011 - I will watch the on-ice Stanley Cup celebrations.